In the summer of 1952, an expert hillbilly fiddler from the mountains of Tennessee became a member of the “world's most exclusive club.”

The fiddler was black-haired 44-year-old Albert Gore, Sr. who the previous week won a seat in the sedate U.S. Senate by ousting one of its oldest and most powerful members, Senator Kenneth D. McKellar. 83, chairman of the appropriations committee and speaker pro-tem.

Al Gore, Sr.

Back in 1938, men of politics were reinforcing old fashion oratory in that year's scramble for votes with fresh appeal in “music, message and machinery.” The music (hillbilly bands), the message (old age pensions) and the machinery (motorized loudspeakers) became streamlined versions of salesmanship.

Mountain music was swinging out over the land to charm votes for both Democrats and Republicans, but the marshall airs of military bands still played a campaign counterpoint to those of hotfoot rhythms.

Most spectacular of the hillbilly orators was W. Lee O’Daniel, the singing flour salesman who topped the gubernatorial nomination of the Democrats. His hi-diddle-diddle outfit offered a theme song for the whole mountain music movement. They came to town with their guitars and soon were performing big time. The hillbillies were politicians now, or as the popular song from that era says, “Them Hillbillies Are Mountain Williams now”). They shucked their boots and overalls and even dropped their “howdy you alls.”

For 20-year-old Albert Gore, fiddling and campaigning ran hand-in-hand as he won the nomination for Congress in Tennessee’s fourth district. Gore, former state labor commissioner, had quite a reputation in the state as a fiddler.

The politician began his fiddling interest as a young boy in the Cumberland Mountains of Smith County, TN. His father gave him the instrument, but his mountaineer friends taught him how to play it as a fiddle, as opposed to a violin. The music he learned was that of mountain backwoods folk tunes like “Cotton-Eye Joe” and “Soldier's Boy,” rather than the modern hillbilly tunes associated with western cowboy crooners like Gene Autry, Tex Ridder and Jimmy Wakely.

The fiddle became an important part of Gore's campaign when he first ran for congress in 1938. He served seven terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to the senate.) At one rally, the crowd liked a couple of tunes he played so much that they kept demanding encores and delaying the candidate’s speech. Gore finally informed them that if they would vote for him, he would just play his fiddle and cut out all the talking.

Gore once appeared with his fiddle on the “Grand Ole Opry,” which originates in Nashville. He received a standing invitation to return whenever he wished. Two years prior, his fiddling won second prize when he attended a charity benefit with other talented congressmen.

Gore dropped his fiddling dignity when he ran against McKellar. He likely did not have had time to practice because his campaign against McKellar, who had been in congress since 1911, lasted three full years.

Gore commuted between Washington and Tennessee during the three-year period, making more than 1,000 talks, shaking hands and consistently appearing on weekly television and radio programs.

Tennessee State Highway Marker Honoring Senator Al Gore, Sr.

The congressman, who argued that his 14 years in Congress should earn him a promotion, dwelled on McKellar's age and labeled him “the aging senator” and “the architect of our public debt” as chairman of the appropriations committee. Gore worked hard to get promotions, with his first job being a country schoolteacher. By the time he was 26, he served as a school superintendent.

Eventually, Gore decided to become a lawyer and commuted three nights a week from his mountain home to Nashville to attend YMCA law school. In Nashville, he fell in love with and married a waitress, Lafon Pauline Jackson, at the Andrew Jackson Hotel coffee shop. She was attending Vanderbilt University and also became a lawyer.

Is it possible that Gore's career path happened because he took a cue from the fiddlin' Bob and Alf Taylor brothers  of “War of the Roses” fame.

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On 04-05-1871, the “impromptu stump speaker,” a political fixture, was intellectually known as a “human nondescript.” He was likened to a kind of terribly crushed meat, specially salted, saged and peppered, which became known as “souce” (from the Latin word “salsas,” (which is always ready for use).

A stump speech is “a standard campaign vocalization used by someone running for public office.” The term is derived from the early American custom in which candidates campaigned from town-to-town and stood upon a sawed off tree stump to deliver their discourse.”

The word “impromptu” fit him well because of his busy pace of campaigning, which often included addressing folks several times a day. The candidate usually penned a single speech to be delivered at most, if not all, public gatherings.

The campaigner was further described as being like a “liberated open-countenanced, strong-lunged canine, always prepared to sound off at a moment's notice, to bark for anybody and at anything and to yelp as long as his prepared speeches pleased or annoyed his public, but they were never ignored.”

The orator was likened unto a barn door hung on face hinges, opening not only with easy screeches, but one way was just as easy as another, and when you shut him off in one direction, he was sure to open in another and possibly in several… all at the same time.

The politician resembled an old continental musket, powerful on a shoot and, if the charge be moderately heavy, he kicked back with as much force as he shot forward, often more so, and if occasion required it, he found no difficulty in exploding and effected others sometimes in the same way.

The spokesman was like a weather-cock in the midst of a crazy March storm, wheeling in all directions; sniffing the breeze from every point of the compass and facing every thing that approached his particular front.

Young Abraham Lincoln as a Stump Speaker

Internally, he was a compound mixture of all kinds of moral liquors charged heavily with soda, so as to secure ready and powerful fermentation, hence his supply of intellectual froth and foam was next to inexhaustible.

In a musical sense, he was a combination of all instruments in an orchestra that depend upon active air (or perhaps wind) as a motive tone power.

The man on the stump was a scientific porcupine; he couldn't be taken by storm and if captured by slow siege, the victors would find themselves vanquished in the end.

Mr. Impromptu was full of nerves, so much in fact, that they hung out loosely all around him. Hence, he was very sensitive, so much so that his absorbing powers of sensation were much superior to all possible supply that his personal feelings were never wounded.

The speaker was an animation and vitality smelting furnace and hence, his words and even actions were as fully clothed with mutilating sparks as a fire-puffed cupola.

The stumpman was an automatic commentary on sliding literature and exercised all the privileges which poets and lecturers could have the presumption to claim mechanically. He was a most ingenious comic repair shop.

The non-descript individual was a scientific chime of human bells, and in a singular musical sense, he was not only a riddle, but a most skillful fiddle, capable of being tuned and keyed up to any other instrument demanded for whatever the special occasion.

Altogether, the impromptu stump speaker was quite a clever fellow; he sold in markets for several times his real worth. He got along well with the world, and the earth would feel sadly at a loss without him. Whilst others were not laughing at him, he was always amused… at others and himself. 

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Nashville was decorated and adorned on every street to welcome President William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States and his party on their visit to the first Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Their special train arrived at 8 a.m. and Mr. McKinley and his fellow travelers were escorted to the Maxwell House by a squad of mounted ex-Confederate soldiers wearing the uniform of the “lost cause.”

President William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States

Great crowds thronged the streets and cheered them as they passed. After the party finished breakfast, Governor Bob Taylor of Tennessee and Governor Bucknell of Ohio, accompanied by their staffs, called upon the President and Mrs. McKinley. Afterward, the president of the Woman's Board of the Exposition visited with the President and first lady.

At 11 o'clock, Mr. President arrived at the Exposition grounds still escorted by the ex-Confederates and a troop of regular cavalry. The procession was greeted with cheers from the thousands of thrilled people who lined the streets.

Governor Taylor's address of welcome opened the exercises at the Exposition building. He was followed by the mayor of Nashville and the Governor of Ohio. After Gov. Bushnell concluded his oration, the President was introduced.

At the beginning of his address, he was widely applauded and enthusiastic cheers frequently interrupted him. After referring to the State's first Centennial, he said, among other things:

“Tennessee has sometimes been called the 'mother of Southwestern statesmen.' It furnished us the immortal Andrew Jackson, whose record in war and whose administration in peace as the head of the Great Republic shine on with advancing years. Time has only added luster to his name, increased the obligations of his countrymen and exalted him in their affections.

“The builders of the State, who had forced their way through the trackless forests of this splendid domain, brought with them the same high ideals and fearless devotion to home and country, founded on resistance to oppression, which have everywhere made illustrious the Anglo-American name. They came willing and anxious to fight for independence and liberty and in the war of the Revolution were ever loyal to the standard of Washington.

“Moved by the highest instincts of self-government and the loftiest motives of patriotism under the gallant old John Sevier at Battle of King's Mountain, your forefathers bravely vindicated their honor and gloriously won their independences. Tennesseans have always been volunteering, not drafted patriots.

“In 1846 when 2,400 soldiers were called for, 30,000 loyal Tennesseean offered their services and amid the trials and terrors of the great Civil War, under conditions of peculiar distress and embarrassment, her people divided on contending sides. But upon whichever side found, they fought fearlessly to death and gallant sacrifice. Now, happily there are no contending sides in this glorious commonwealth or in any part of our common country. The men who opposed each other in dreadful battle a third of a century ago, are once more and forever united together under one flag in a never-to-be-broken union.”

At the conclusion of Mr. McKinley's speech, a hickory cane, notably unadorned but sturdy and made from wood grown on the Hermitage property, was presented to the President on behalf of the Ladies' Hermitage Association.

The ceremonies being concluded, the President and party went to a luncheon at the West Side Club on the grounds in front of the Administration Building.

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Andrew Johnson Stover was a grandson of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States. As a child, he frolicked about the White House and lawn and became a favorite of the political brass of his day. His lifestyle later changed dramatically when he left the nation's capital to became a hunter and a trapper, dwelling in a rudimentary log house insulated with clay in the Holston Mountains of East Tennessee.

To look at Stover as an adult, one would think that he had always dwelled in the environment that he later occupied. Even though he dressed like and mingled with other mountaineers on occasion, he preferred to be alone.

The grandson had been eyewitness to some stirring events in American history, happenings in which the central figure was his grandfather. Although some individuals had made the transition from a log cabin to the White House, few had abandoned White House living to return to a wilderness mountain abode.

Yet, such was the history of Andrew Johnson Stover, whose grandfather succeeded the great Abraham Lincoln and whose biography was itself eccentric and interesting. Not many men occupied the White House whose life story was as romantic as that of Andrew Johnson. And few have spent their boyhood in the White House and their manhood as a frugal mountain hermit in a log hut like the president's grandson.

In the little town of Greeneville, Tennessee, stood a rude structure, gray with age, over the door on which was a weathered stained sign upon containing the letters, “A. Johnson, Taylor.”

In the ancient structure of his early youth, Andrew Johnson piled the needle and handled the goose; he made the long-tail coats and fancy trousers for Greeneville dudes of that era. Likewise, he cut and sewed the more sober garments for deacons and judges in the village.

So, with Andy Johnson, cross-legged on the tailor's bench, the little shop became a sort of political forum for the community. While men were measured for a new Sunday outfit, they were surprised to see what a wonderful grasp of public awareness their tailor possessed.

And while the future president's needle was busy basting suits for the Greeneville beaux, the loom of fate was busy weaving another fabric, which Andrew Johnson was to sew into one of the most spectacular careers in American history.

Step by step, he rose in life until he became Vice-President of the United States and when the great Abraham Lincoln was silenced by the bullet of John Wilkes Booth, the Greeneville tailor succeeded to the chief magistracy of the nation.

A fate uniquely awaited him as an occupant of the White House. In his horizon was an impeachment trial with which he would have to grapple.

What was Mr. Stover doing while the throng of hostile critics took unpleasant aim at his grandfather? All this occurred while the world was looking curiously on to see what sort of political pathology would be applied to the ghastly wounds in the American Union. Stover continued playing in the White House and on White House grounds.

Those were not the most brilliant days, socially, the White House ever knew. The country was just catching its breath after a prolonged and ghastly war in which the Union had seemed at times to be in danger of being forever split. It was a time when countless homes had been saddened and desolated and thousands of brave men had been killed or wounded on many bloody battlefields.

Nevertheless, there was a certain relief and joy in all hearts that the war was over and this feeling found expression in the society affairs of the time. There was a cheerfulness and exuberance about them unknown for some years past.

At any rate, Stover saw the most splendid society of that era at its brightest. He had total freedom in the White House as he observed foreign representatives in their gold-laced uniforms and breast bedecked with royal orders. He saw the loveliest women of this time flaunting in gauze and crinoline in dreamy waltz. He watched with uncomprehending childish eyes the great events that succeeded each other with such startling rapidity.

Perhaps he comprehended more than any one guessed. Maybe he saw the hollow emptiness of glory and grandeur. Possibly, in those childish days at the capital, a sort of infantile philosophy taught him the misery that goes hand-in-hand with political distinction, the heavy cares, the responsibilities, the heart aches and the weary burdens. Perhaps he determined then, in his boyish heart, to turn his back on all of that and seek happiness in the simple life close to God's creation.

At any rate, the White House child soon became a log cabin man. The magnificence of the executive mansion was succeeded by the rustic walls of a cabin set in a mountain of wilderness.

The formal White House gardens were succeeded by the rugged wilderness of the mountain slope, decked in tangled green, save in mid-spring, when the dogwood and other mountain flowers were in the glory of full blossom.

Andrew Johnson's Grave, Andrew Johnson Stover, Taylor Shop in Downtown Greeneville, TN

Instead of sitting on his knees in the councils of this and other nations, Andrew Johnson Stover had for his companions his guns, his dogs, his traps, the sunlight, the shadow, the pine tree, the raccoon and the hoot-owl. Beside a mountain brook, clear and sweet, bubbling and splashing downward to the valley, he had no vain regrets of giving up his previous days. The free wild mountains and the blue, overarching sky, were more pleasant to him than the stately gardens at the nation's capital.

Andrew Johnson was likely chosen for the vice-presidential nomination because he was a Tennesseean. He was well-known. His name was conspicuous among the politicians of the war period, not only because of personal abilities, but because he was a Union Southerner. His geographical location made him a valuable running mate for Lincoln.

Andrew Johnson Stover Plays the Banjo. A View of His Final Resting Place

Andrew Johnson Stover was excited neither by recollections of his childhood in the White House nor the work of the landscape gardener in the country around his grandfather's grave. His gun and his cabin in the mountains were all that he asked for in life. But to the ardent student of human nature, both Andrew Johnson, the president, and Andrew Johnson Stover, the hermit, are well worth studying. The unique journey will be rewarding. 

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An old newspaper from July 1901 dealt with three news items: the visit of William Jennings Bryan to Bristol, the arrival of the Secretary of Agriculture to consider a proposed Appalachian Park reserve and the death of a Blountville Civil War veteran.

Soon after William Jennings Bryan was scheduled to visit Bristol, it appeared that the city had been overrun with hoboes for several days prior to the visit. The transients' scheme was to conduct fleecing schemes on unsuspecting victims when the crowd gathered on that special day.

During the visit, about a half dozen of the suspicious characters were incarcerated and police were on the lookout for others who might embarrass the city. Two strangers were found feigning as cripples and begging for money from gullible residents.

Another, who refused to identify himself, was locked up on that Saturday night for assaulting a visitor with a stone. The gentleman, who was at the Union Depot, suffered a fractured skull. A witness to the attack stated that the stranger first demanded money from the victim but was refused.

Within an hour from the time the tickets for Bryan's  lecture went on sale, every seat in the reserved section of the Opera House had been taken. It was evident that hundreds of admirers of the noted Nebraskan would have to be content with seeing him from a distance. 

Postcard of William Jennings Bryan and His Running Mate

Mr. Bryan's voice still counted in all parts of the country, but probably more so in his own great section beyond the Mississippi. And it was no small service he rendered the Democratic Party in the west, while Democratic leaders in another sections, who had tried to drive him from the party, were knifing the party's candidate for President.

Many historians firmly believe that no public man in the country's history had been so heavily abused and belittled as William Jennings Bryan. However, he held it together with patience and forbearance that should have won the admiration of even his enemies.

The prohibition victory in Nebraska doubtless was very gratifying to Mr. Bryan, since he was a fearless and forceful foe of the liquor traffic and also for the fact that the substance had been driven out of his state due largely to his never ceasing labors to that end.

Perhaps Bryan is best remembered for joining the prosecution team in 1925 in the trial of John Scopes, a Tennessee schoolteacher charged with violating the Butler Act, which forbid teaching evolution in the public schools. Bryan took the stand and underwent a scathing cross-examination by Clarence Darrow. Although Bryan`s side won the case, it was later thrown out on an appeal. Furthermore, the famed politician paid a high price for the victory; he died less than a week later.

In other news, it was announced here that James A. Wilson, United States Secretary of Agriculture, was on a tour of inspection of the proposed Appalachian Park reserve. The land embraced a section of several states in the South. It required $5 million to buy the lands under contemplation and several more millions to build roads through the remote areas and otherwise improve them.

It was firmly believed that the next Congress would bring about the new Appalachian reserve, but that did not happen. The national park would come several years later. During Secretary Wilson and his party's visit, they spend four days at the Cloudland Hotel on beautiful Roan Mountain.

More news included a Civil War veteran, Mr. James P. Snapp, who died at his home at Blountville, Tennessee at the age of 78. He was described as being a useful citizen and left valuable property to his relatives. He never married, was a good soldier during the War Between the States and took a firm stand for the Confederacy. Mr. Snapp graduated from Emory and Henry College at the age of 20. Some of his many relatives resided in Bristol.

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Walter Preston Brownlow, a prominent name among East Tennesseans, worked in 1876 as a reporter for the Knoxville Whig and Chronicle and that same year purchased the Herald and Tribune in Jonesboro, Tennessee. He served as Tennessee's 1st district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1896 until his passing in on July 8, 1910.

On July 11, 1910, Reverend J.A. Ruble, chaplain of the Mountain Branch Soldiers' Home, delivered an eulogy at the funeral of the Abingdon, Virginia native. The following is a abridgment of the speech:

Walter Brownlow (insert) Family in Jonesboro, Tennessee

“Walter Brownlow was a character who was great and unique. After losing his father at age 10, he faced poverty and a lack of early educational opportunities. Nevertheless, he persevered in life until his name and influence was strongly felt in East Tennessee and nationally.  

“Faced with the hardships of war, some men attain dazzling heights, becoming great with almost abrupt suddenness. Col. Brownlow launched his 'growl on a placid sea' and, amid the tranquil environments of peace, did a work and reached an influence that ultimately rendered his name immortal.

“That we may better understand the work and worth of this man, let us pause a moment for analysis and comparison. Serving in Congress for 14 years, it is probable that history will attest to the truthfulness of the statement that no other Congressman has been able to do more for his people. Certainly few have done as much.

“Disclaiming a purpose and deeply desiring to avoid being offensive, love for his memory and loyalty to truth will allow the statement that no other has ever wrought so fruitfully or achieved so much. He brought to his task untiring industry. He studied the needs of the people of his state and of the nation and, in a continuous effort, dedicated his splendid powers of brain and heart to supply them, which effort was crowned with marvelous success.

“Brownlow's accomplishments included the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, built at a cost of over $2 million, located near Johnson City, Tennessee. Among all the branches of the National Soldiers' Home, you stand as the capsheaf, (crowning top of the stack). Also included are Greeneville, Tennessee's National Cemetery, where rests the mortal remains of President Andrew Johnson, known among his people as the “Great Commoner”; the fish hatchery at Erwin;  and Federal buildings at Bristol, Johnson City and Greeneville, all standing as monuments to his genius for hard and successful work.

“Because of his great heart, all classes and conditions of people could enter and be made welcome without ringing the door bell. In the many folks that we have seen approach him, from the worthy old veteran on crutches to the struggling laborer whose family was suffering for the necessaries of life, he never turned one away wounded. When he could do no more, he would send them away with the memory of a brother's tear.

“In the positions which differentiate the great parties, he was Republican, but as Congressman, he was the servant of all. While the congressional district, which he served was a historic battleground in the sad and stormy days of the sixties, the position of this people being peculiar in that they were radically divided in their sympathies. Many were clinging to the Confederate cause while others were clinging to the cause of the Union, thus causing the desolating waves of grim visage war to sweep back and forth like a simoom (silent sandstorm). It was here that his marvelous influence as a peacemaker was seen and felt.

“Mr. Brownlow was a firm believer in the Bible, believing that Jesus Christ stands for the highest good in the universe. He always felt and showed the greatest reverence for sacred things and, as the end approached, expressed faith in the spiritual and eternal, prayed earnestly and invoked the prayers of others.”

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In April 1891, two years after being in office, President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), the 23rd President of the United States (grandson of William Henry Harrison, the 9th President) had begun what was widely regarded as a perilous 9,000-mile journey by train.  After the President rolled out of Washington Station, the next morning's newspapers were studded with quotes at each brief stop of well-expressed speeches for which he was known.

At Roanoke, Bristol, Johnson City, Jonesboro, Greeneville, Morristown and Knoxville, he was warmly received, not only by members of his own faction, but also by citizens of sundry opinions who wanted to get a peek at their leader. 

The president was recognized for his cleverness in making short, sudden, fugitive addresses, such as were well-suited for a hurried long railroad excursion across the vast country. In these addresses, he was not afraid of politics but talked unreservedly of thorny issues.

President Benjamin Harrison

Although his trip was deemed perilous, it was not assumed that anything might happen physically to the state-of-the-art vestibule vehicle that carried his entourage along the way. It was made of the best available rolling stock available and equipped with the most modern safeguards and luxurious components available. The chances were all together in favor of its carrying him comfortably over many miles without problems.

Although it was possible that the vehicle could encounter spread rails, which would cause it to leave the tracks, tumble through an open drawbridge, fall down a steep embankment or come upon a railway bridge too weak to support it, a transportation calamity of this magnitude was highly improbable.

What his supporters regarded as the real danger of the long trip was that the President might foolishly, by some careless words and actions, cause harm in his getting his party's future nomination at the Republican National Convention of 1892. In spite or his public speaking skills, he was especially vulnerable because his first term was anything but stellar. His detractors had a lot to talk about.

For those critics who said that the president, a brigadier general, was, figuratively speaking, riding along with full intention of acquiring the nomination, he was cautioned that even the ablest man was apt to make mistakes in circumstances far less trying than his. 

Then, assuming that the central figure avoided all blunders of his own, the unexpected was always likely to happen, events over which he had no control, but which could be embarrassing to him and hurtful to his political future. The rule which used to hold back the public appearance of an avowed candidate, one even whose name was already upon the ticket, was founded as much on good sense as on conventional correctness.

Mr. Harrison was a man of first-rate common sense, whatever might have been the measure of his other qualities. He was not usually at the mercy of his impulses. Perhaps he was not on his way to the next presidential convention as many suggested, but possibly the primary motive to his long journey was to see the vastness and beauty of the American countryside.

His critics would not accept such a theory, being convinced to the contrary. Yet there were those who believed that no other explanation could be found for the fact that a self-contained, cool, careful man seemed to fly flatly in the face of the old English axiom: “To stay at home is best.”

However, the President did not shy away from certain controversial subjects such as the McKinley Law that raised the average duty on imports to almost fifty percent, an act designed to shield domestic industries from foreign competition. He was equally explicit and emphatic in regard to the radical principles underlying the law.

No mention was made of where in Johnson City the train stopped, how long it remained there or the size of the crowd that assembled to hear their president. This was before the Southern Depot that many of us remember was located between W. Market  and N. Roan was built. 

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May 31, 1909 was a momentous day in Greeneville, Tennessee – the former 17th president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, was eulogized. He lay at rest among the sprawling greenery in the National Cemetery, which for the previous 34 years had served as the resting place for the remains of the former president.

purchased by the government and made into a national cemetery. It was a beautiful where, for several years in his early life, Mr. Johnson had worked as a tailor. The property was meticulously provided for and commanded a fine view of the mountain range which separated Mr. Johnson’s adopted state of Tennessee with North Carolina, where he was born.

Thousands of the descendants of his neighbors and friends in East Tennessee took advantage on that special occurrence. They were there to honor the memory of the former distinguished citizen by organizing the Andrew Johnson Memorial Association.

People came from all portions of the expansive and picturesque East Tennessee countryside. While most were of the present day generation, some were old-timers who spoke about him with much fondness and boasted of having known the “Courageous Commoner,” as he was known in his day. 

The keynote speaker of the occasion, Martin W. Littleton, a U.S. Representative from New York, offered a glowing eulogy of the former president who, during his term of office, was tried on impeachment charges but came up one vote short of conviction. Littleton, a native of East Tennessee, assessed, at great length, the life of the distinguished man in whose honor the people had assembled and further predicted that the day would come when the entire country would pay homage to the memory of Johnson.

Outside visitors as well as local residents found exceptional pleasure in pointing out the still preserved sign of “Andrew Johnson, Tailor,” which continued to adorn one of the most unassuming buildings. The people also took much pride in the fact that, notwithstanding the almost successful effort to forcibly eject Mr. Johnson from the White House, the private cemetery in which he was buried became the first of such cemeteries to be given national status by Congress.

Among those present and participating in the proceedings was the popular Honorable Walter P. Brownlow, member of Congress from that district, who was a near relative of the late Parson Brownlow. Although Walter Brownlow, who was largely responsible for the creation of the National Cemetery, occupied no assigned part on the program that day, he was by common consent awarded a position of prominence.

In addition to Mr. Littleton’s speech, the program consisted of the singing of “America” and the “Star Spangled Banner” by a choir of 200 voices, an invocation by Rev. John S. Eakin and the introduction of Mr. Littleton by Honorary James C Park, closing with the official formation of the Memorial Association.

There was a notable group of musicians in attendance, several of whom were old-time fiddlers, who had furnished music at the political gatherings during the notable Johnson-Gentry gubernatorial campaign prior to the Civil War. Many of them were in a reminiscent mood and between tunes manifested great willingness to entertain visitors with stories of the dim and distant past.

Before the President's death, he made his wishes known: “When I die. wrap my body in the flag of my country, pillow my head on its Constitution and carry it to one of those beautiful hills in Greene County and there let me sleep until resurrection morning.” His wish was carried out to the letter. A silk flag, a gift from a lifelong friend, was used as a shroud, while the head rested on a worn copy of the Constitution, which he read and studied often.

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Robert “Bob” Taylor and Alfred “Alf” Taylor are notable in Tennessee for their legendary 1886 brother-against-brother “War of the Roses” gubernatorial campaign, acquiring its colorful name from the original 1455-85 “War of the Roses” conflict fought for the throne of England between supporters of the houses of Lancaster (red roses) and York (white ones). Bob emerged the victor.

In 1899, after completing two terms as governor (1887-91 and 1897-99), Bob Taylor quit the field of politics (at least for seven years) when he lost his third bid for the job. In typical poetic form, Governor Taylor commented on his difficult pronouncement. Note in his words the adoration he expresses for his beautiful East Tennessee mountain home:

“I am about to shuffle off this mortal coil of politics and fly away to the haven of my native mountains where I may think and dream in peace, safe from the sickening sting of unjust criticism, safe from the talons of some old political vulture, safe from the slimy kiss and keen dagger of ingratitude.

“I do not mean to say that all politicians are vultures or that they are all hypocrites or assassins, for the great majority of our public men are upright and honest and worthy of the confidence reposed in them by the people. Yet there are black wings in the political firmament and reptiles crawl and hiss in every capital.

“But thank God, the live thunders of eternal truth always clear the atmosphere and the heel of justice will surely bruise the serpent’s head. I do not retire from this office with the ranking of disappointment and chagrin in my bosom, but rather as one who retires from labor to rest, from war to peace, from trouble to happiness.

“I do not retire, the ‘somnambulist (sleepwalker) of a shattered dream,’ but with all the buds of hope bursting into bloom and all the bowers of the future ringing with melody. I am contented with my lot in life. Three times I have worn the laurel wreath of honor (U.S. House of Representative and two terms as governor), twined by the people of my native state and that is glory enough for me.

“While I believe that the good in politics outweighs the bad, yet how thorny is the path and how unhappy the pilgrimage to him who dares to do his duty. There are no flowers except a few bouquets snatched from the graves of fallen foes; there is no happiness except the transient thrill of cruel triumph, which passes like a shadow across the heart.

“Every honest man who runs for office is a candidate for trouble, for the fruits of political victory turn to ashes on the lips. To me, there is nothing in this world so pathetic as a candidate. He is like a mariner without a compass, drifting on the tempest-tossed waves of uncertainty, between the smiling cliffs of hope and the frowning crags of fear. He is a walking petition and a living prayer; he is the packhorse of public sentiment; he is the dromedary of politics.

“I am no longer a candidate. Never again will I be inaugurated into public office. The ark of my humble public career now rests on the Ararat of public life and I stand on its peaceful summit and look down on the receding flood of politics. The dove of my destiny has brought me an olive branch from happier fields and I go hence to labor and to love.

“I take with me a heart full of gratitude and a soul full of precious memories – gratitude to the people for their unwavering confidence in me – precious memories of my friends who have been kind and true. The record I have made is an open book to all. I am willing to live by that record. For whatever mistakes I may have committed, I have kept steadily in view the honor of the State and the happiness of the people.”

“Our Bob” made good on his retirement promise from 1899 until 1907, but changed his mind and was elected a United States Senator from Tennessee. The distinguished Happy Valley native sadly passed away in 1911 while still serving his first term. Brother Alf became governor in 1920.

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In the spring of 1946, Republican legislators were lining up behind Representative B. (Brazilla) Carroll Reece of Tennessee to succeed Herbert Brownell Jr. as GOP National Committee chairman. Mr. Reece, 56 year-old representative from the Volunteer State's 1st Congressional District, if selected, was eager to resign from Congress and take over the party chairmanship on a full-time basis.

The National Committee, of which Mr. Reece was a veteran member, met on April 1 of that year to pick a successor to Brownell. GOP leaders in Congress reportedly settled on Mr. Reece after the leading contender, a representative from Ohio, took himself out of consideration.

Mr. Reece, a banker, lawyer, educator and highly-decorated World War I veteran, had served in Congress since 1921. Republican colleagues regarded him as a “middle of the road” man not particularly identified with the political camp of any party, thus being potentially satisfactory to all factions.

When Mrs. Louise Reece was asked if she thought her husband was dynamic enough to hold the job, she smiled and responded: “He keeps his dynamite well concealed. You should see him in an emergency or when he is provoked. A man can't have a war record like my husband's and not be dynamic.” The new chairman had volunteered for World War I, entering the service as a private and departing as a battalion commander. 

His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal and the Purple Heart. In addition, he received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and was cited for bravery by several Allied generals. Before he entered the GOP chairmanship, few persons in Washington knew very much about him.

According to Reece's critics, the chairman's record in Congress had been unspectacular; his voting branded him an isolationist. He voted against reciprocal trade agreements, lend-lease, amendments to the Wagner Labor Act and for anti-strike and anti-racketeer bills, which were directed against unions.

On the other hand, Reece's supporters noted that he had shown liberal tendencies in voting for abolishing the poll tax, anti-lynch legislation and signed the petition favoring the FEPC (Fair Employment Practices Commission). He regarded himself as an independent thinker. What Reece lacked in outward appearance was complemented by his wife who mere than filled the void. 

Louise admitted that politics has been in her family for a long time. She was the daughter of Sen. Guy Goff from West Virginia and granddaughter of the man who was often called the idol of the Republican Party in that state, former Judge Nathan Goff. While Reece was going about his quiet business in Congress, his wife kept things running smoothly back in Johnson City. This resulted in his having the longest tenure in the history of that district. He was first sent to Congress in 1930.

The new chairman was skillful at soothing ruffled feelings. Once, at a meeting of Republicans in Chicago, one member of the group offered a resolution and insisted on presenting it in person at the next meeting of the National Committee. Hot words were exchanged accusing the guilty one of wanting to usurp the conversation.

Reece, acting as chairman, said the whole situation reminded him of this story: “A group of preachers were sitting around discussing which preacher they like to listen to best. The last to speak his mind said, 'Well, when I'm going good and warmed up, I believe I enjoy listening to myself best.” This caused the group to laugh, thereby causing the tense situation to be ironed out.

A good friend of Reece's from the Tennessee Legislature has these positive words to say about the politician: “Carroll never meets a stranger. As soon as he says 'hello' to anybody, that person is his friend.”

When Reece passed away in March 1961, his wife was elected to serve the remainder of his term in Congress. Both are buried at Monte Vista Memorial Park in Johnson City.




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